Interesting things about ECM


Mark Morrells Oracle UCM improvement wish list

Filed under: General, Oracle UCM, Usability, WCM — Tags: , , — Anthony Fast @ 4:18 pm


My Oracle UCM improvement wish list

By markmorrell

Oracle is aware of Janus Boye and my blog posts and tweets on Twitter about Oracle usability issues.  Oracle want to help resolve these.  I’m starting with Oracle UCM.

Am I missing any of your issues?

1. Publisher control

Oracle UCM has poor ‘granularity’ of permissions and no obvious back end to see who has access.

The permissions only allow two (publisher) levels, a limited ‘only edit what’s already there’ and a far too powerful ‘does lots of complicated stuff with a very complex interface’. This suits organisations with a few powerful people in a central group, but not BT’s intranet governance model which has decentralised publishers.

A hard coded menu item called ’switch region context’ has no place on an interface I expect a large number of users to use, and that’s only one part of a convoluted process to add a new page.

The user ids do not integrate with other user ID systems and it is difficult to integrate this with other processes (e.g. make sure that only people who have done training have access).

2. Quality of web pages

Oracle UCM should never be able to generate invalid code.

The conversion from MS Word is very poor ‘out of the box’, producing inaccessible and invalid code. With a lot of work – BT was able to improve this but never approached an acceptable level. Oracle UCM needs only to allow ‘well written’ MS Word documents (i.e. only accept well formed documents) and to reject (with explanations) documents it cannot convert to valid, accessible pages.

The site studio interface is poor and difficult to apply standards to. The browser version support is difficult and you have to rely on using admin permissions to install a clunky java applet. I don’t know if the applet is usable to people with disabilities. If it must use ‘rich’ interface elements then accessibility must be considered.

The pages themselves seem to insert a pile of javascript (is this out of the box?) and it’s difficult to enforce things like good metadata.

3. Template creation and management

There seem to be few well written components to use in the templates. Additional features (e.g. embedded video, RSS) need to be custom written and template specific. That’s a maintenance headache waiting to happen.

Management of templates appears to be awful. This encourages poor re-use of template development resource. It’s hard to quantify the effort required creating a template, but it seems to be excessive compared to other competitors. BT’s aim is to reduce, not increase, costs.

Please help me to help you with Oracle applications’ usability by commenting.



Things We Hate About Content Management

Filed under: General — Tags: , , — Anthony Fast @ 11:24 pm


– By The Motley Crew

It was a lovely Friday morning/afternoon, and we were Waving. The experiment initiated by McBoof (yes, that one) brought together 6 CMS folks from around the world. The event gathered together analysts, journalists, vendors, system integrators toWave on a topic that was decided at that very moment. We had one hour (in between conference calls and other job thingys) to pick a topic and Wave it.

A little collab on what exactly to Wave about later, we decided to do “a mindmap of things we find annoying in CMSs.” To up the ante, we also decided to take the original bullet points (deemed “too easy”) and convert the whole thing toprose. Was the tool given really up to the task? Were our minds flexible enough to wrap around this kind of realtime collaboration?

In the beginning — we blame the tool ;) — we were Drowning, not Waving. We (almost) didn’t fight about  edits. We almost didn’t step on each other’s toes. All in all, it turned out to be a fun and productive collaborative exercise. Read on to see for yourself.

Cosmetic Issues

There really should be a CMS UI fashion police. As there should be a Magic Quadrant for shoes and handbags. Why? Well, there’s a couple of issues.

For instance, sloppy, non-designed design. You know the kind of thing that has not been thought about and reworked and made to feel right. The sort of thing coders do if you don’t force them. But at the same time, over-designed interfaces can be just as bad: the designers and developers really need to be on speaking terms.

When building a system that works, you can’t have the development team in the basement on a sustenance of Jolt coding away into the night, and the designers in the penthouse in turtleneck sweaters sipping espressos. Too many CMS designs end up being programmer vs. end-user friendly. And this is not the best way to charm away those marketing and web content folks.

Developers and designers need to talk to each other and essentially, both should talk to users – not just eat your own dogfood – but listen to what dogs like to eat. A developer or UI designer are not content editors, marketers or knowledge and information workers.

Some vendors say that the agonizingly and depressingly black UI backgrounds are hip and modern. Well, they are not, really. Who told you that? Especially if you add a Star Trek theme to it and sprinkle in some stars and cosmic swirls, because if Apple does it, it must be cool right? Not pointing any fingers, but I would quit if I were a content manager having to spend my 9-5 staring into the “black hole” of some of the CMS UIs that are out there on the market.

Even pop-ups seem less annoying when compared to dark UIs. Which brings us onto…

Interface Issues

Interfaces need a comfortable lived in feel. Content management is something people work with every day, it is their interface to their job. You meet people who hate the interface, and that makes their work a heap of pain. I have seen people who describe the 44 clicks it takes to insert an image. You have a responsibility to these people, to make them love the content and make the tool disappear.

We all hate it when the interface does something on its own that ruins your context. E.g. a page refresh, or in Wave the jumping around of the scrolled window in some cases ;-) Or the lack of an easy way to bookmark, so you can reference someone to the content. Remember people will be collaborating and need to send links around. Make sure the UI is a proper web application with URLs. And why do tasks that are easy to describe and often repeated in exactly the same way still take more than a few clicks? (Or maybe even dozens of clicks.) With bonus points for forcing users to use dialogs or tabs to enter mandatory information. Remember people do not have all the information in the right order.

Also, we need sane conflict merges. Check in and check out is too extreme for most uses. But people want to edit offline still. Of course Wave doesn’t have an offline: Google thinks this problem is going away, it’s real time so there are never conflicts (that’s defined in the XML protocol; it’s quite interesting if you are that way geeky). Does Google have the right answer here? Well, the Motley Crew is struggling here, and some browsers lost sync during this experiment.

“Power users” (those who use it all day long) of CMSs needed to have a “Desktop” experience. What does Desktop Experience mean? Well, it doesn’t really have to be on the desktop — these days it is perfectly possible to get very close to a hitherto Desktop experience in a browser or similar. these are qualities: very low latency from action to response, no page refreshes, modal and modal-less dialog boxes as appropriate, “push” notification.

Architectural Issues

Architectural issues of the wave overtook any architectural issues of Content Management Systems. The fact that we authored this entire article in a single blip didn’t help, and slowed everything down enormously. McBoof learned the hard way that he really need a new laptop and spent most of the session giving his machine CPR. Next time we’ll do each paragraph in its own blip to stop FireFox going down like a Led Zeppelin.

Monolithic systems. Build it out of pieces that the client can not use all of. Obviously your pieces may work together better, but there should be components. Do not try to reinvent all kinds of wheel. “Best of breed,” though, is just another weasel marketing idea, as if systems are pinnacles not about meeting requirements.

Marketeers are adroit at using the term Best Practice to position Their Way as the only way that a particular matter can be solved. (Many of us live in that netherland of having to pedal that point of view, but it is a falsehood that the careful buyer should try to see through.)I think this devalues genuine best practice, vendors should cite references

Most often a marketeer’s Best Practice view is the only one they subscribe to as their product development has paddled up the wrong stream and cannot or won’t reverse their architectural design (probably because of the cost of doing so). This intransigence most often causes a product to doom itself. (Think of IBM and The Mainframe Is The Only Way To Do Serious Business).

Who really still believes that there is a place in this world for Flash or Java Applet based Rich Text Editors? TinyMCE, FCKeditor and others are filling the gap left by Ektron when they bit the hand that feeds and entered the CMS market. Ephox is trying to spread, but I find it difficult to come up with an excuse to use an Applet over HTML with javascript these days. Stick with the standard.

Business Issues

Where you are buying into something that you may very well need to change or integrate with there is strong benefit in considering Open Source. Open Source used to frighten commercial software companies but we have come along way on that road to understand that commercial organisation can operate in an Open Source world and benefit. This does not necessarily mean that their prized system needs to be fully opened up, but taking the spirit of it to mean that you are completely open to people seeing and learning from your code how it operates.

Exactly what you need to see opened up varies. In a CMS there may be a subsystem that stores the content or one that allows a Rich Text Editor. These arguably don’t need to be opened up, but when a CMS ships with modules for, for example, an RSS feed widget, calendaring tool, prebuilt webforms, users who then want a variation on this module can benefit from seeing how the “pros” did it, they can then use it as a starting point for their own different implementation.

We really don’t need vendors that pay lip service to the buzzwords. When they think the new CMS buzzword “engagement” is just a screenshot of Google Analytics. Or when they add an image picker and call itDAM . And a cross-over between WCM and ECM? Don’t think WCM is like ECM and it’s about organizing content, not about effectively communicating with the audience. And don’t think that if you organize the content, you canaut omatically communicate effectively.

Completely different, but equally frustrating, is procurement (and the procedures that go with it.) Procurement folk don’t recognise the importance of user adoption to the success of the project — of the black background and all the UI issues pointed out previously. If a CMS is procured according to procedure, the selection is a success to them. But those same rules are often a recipe for ignoring what the users really need.

At the same time, budgets that aren’t transparent are an issue – customer and vendor should be able to have a sensible grown up conversation. As a customer, of course you want good value, but how cheap are you?But to vendors: many licensing models don’t make any sense, and force you to do stupid things. People are scared to have that conversation – the best architectural fit first I say, lets figure out an appropriate license around that.


So much hatred rolled up into a tight little ball of anti-CMS rage. Who would have expected it from such a respected bunch of CMS folk. We hate the designs, the interfaces, the architectures and the business. Time for a beer/wine? Wave good bye!


Sharepoint calculation example

Filed under: General, Sharepoint, WCM — Anthony Fast @ 8:01 pm

For a concrete example of relative costs, assume the management team of a mid-sized company decides to provide next-
generation collaboration software to all of their 5,500 employees. The following shows the anticipated software bill of materials for a Microsoft SharePoint solution. This calculating does not take into account the additional costs to upgrade Exchange, Office or Active Directory, which are also required to deploy Microsoft SharePoint 2007.

Item Quantity Cost per Unit Total
Microsoft Office SharePoint Server License 5 $6,503 $32,515
Microsoft Office SharePoint Server Standard CALs 5,500 $137 $753,500
Microsoft Office SharePoint Server Enterprise CALs
5,5 $110 $605,000
Windows Server 2008 Standard License
7 $1,067 $7,469
Windows Server 2008 Standard CALs 5,500 $44 $242,000
Microsoft Office SharePoint Server Search Server 1 $8,213 $8,213
Office Forms Server 1 $4,424 $4,424
Office Forms Server CALs 5,500 $54 $297,000
SharePoint Designer 10 $187 $1,870
Microsoft SQL Server License 1 $730 $730
TOTAL $1,952,721



Are you getting ripped off by your Oracle ECM consultant?

Filed under: General, Oracle UCM — Tags: , — Anthony Fast @ 8:24 pm


Its absolutely maddening! A couple of days ago I’ve got a call from Alex. He was too busy to help out a client and wondered if I could help them out. I asked what do they need done. Guess what? Yet another new Oracle ECM client was badly burnt by a large consulting shop.

First they paid $250/hr plus travel and accommodation for a consultant to come on site for two weeks and “design an implementation approach”. What they ended up getting for over $25,000.00 is a copy of their own technical architecture document with a few pages of Oracle “Planning and Implementation Guide” plugged in. That’s all! Like that wasn’t enough?

The client proceeded anyways. They invested in the Content Server licenses and needed ECM up… Another month and a 25% of their budget later they had a few requirements workshops done and a requirements gathering template partially filled in. They’ve seen a PM, BA, an ECM consultant and an architect. No results! Isn’t that NUTS?

That amount was sufficient to have their environments rolled out and users trained in ECM but all they got is a couple of useless documents. What a rip-off!

I understand that replying to an RFP costs money but why the client has to pay for it?

If any one of you tells me another story like this – I’ll be banging my head against the wall and screaming until my neighbour comes back from their night shift and stops me! I cannot take it anymore! Can’t you guys see who you hiring?

OK, I understand that frustration doesn’t help much so let me give you a few red flags look for

  • Forced methodology. When consultant “recommends” very insistently that you have them produce a document or other “artefact” because its required by their methodology – be sure to question that and get your own independent assessment of what kind of return will you’d be getting on this investment.
  • Withholding knowledge. Unless you plan on retaining the consulting shop indefinitely, put very specific controls in place regarding the knowledge transfer. Be sure that consultants are ready and willing to explain every step they take and help your full time staff to follow by their footsteps. Verbal promises on behalf of the sales team are usually not enough to get that in place.
  • Unnecessary consultants. Before authorizing a team of consultants to start working on your project – are you sure you understand what every one of them is doing? Are you sure you will be getting value for what you pay for EACH ONE of them?
  • Inflated estimates. This one hardly needs any explanation. As long as you don’t have in-house Oracle ECM expertise – you are completely at they mercy as far as the estimates are concerned. They are free to double and triple the time things actually take and you won’t even know when to object.
  • Weak or no guarantee. Typical 30 days guarantee when consultants fix the bugs you find after the project is complete – is not much help:
    • Does it protect you from the project taking five times longer then they promised?
    • What about the one that delivered five times less then you expected where everything over and above the out-of-the-box Content Server deployment is a “Change Request” and costs extra?
    • Also – do you seriously expect them to fix bugs FOR FREE at the same pace they did when they were paid? Come on! Those developers were reassigned to another project a week before your last payment came out!

Hope those will make you a little more prepared to deal with not-so-honest consultants or minimize your losses if you already have one of these by your side.

Can they still cheat you?

Well, now that you will be noticing the “tricks of the trade” it will be harder for them to do but many will continue to get away until you have an in house Oracle ECM expertise … and – despite of what they tell you

– you actually can get good working knowledge of Oracle ECM in just a few days and

NO – it won’t require sending your people for an expensive several day course.

For starters, why don’t you get a “sandbox” copy of Oracle ECM on your laptop? You can get an easy, step by step instructions here and simply play around with it. Online help, combined with information from this blog should get you pretty far, pretty fast.

I’m working a complete set of FREE or very LOW COST training materials to get you the knowledge you need as quick and easy as it is humanly possible – you can check out my video courses at And, of course, keep an eye on this blog.

That’s all for now,



Things I dont like!

Filed under: General, Oracle UCM, Usability — Tags: — Anthony Fast @ 11:42 pm


Writing a blog is a challenge. You should really spend some quality time to think though topics do your resarch and then write. Writing a techincal blog is a bigger challenge as time spent on doing research is more then for a ordinary blog.

Things said and done lets start blogging. This time I am puting a list of things I donot like about UCM.
  1. Support: Before cribing about the product and some of the intrinsic details I would like to mention that UCM support from Oracle is average. Most of the times support personel have no clue as to what is happening and what should be done. Agreed that Oracle has just acquired the product and doesnot have the required numbers to give best support considering the product is buggy and doesnot behave as mentioned in the documentation(actually most them do not!) support should be up to the mark so that the implementation teams doest not miss dead lines with your SR still in work in progress status.
  2. Documentation: I find UCM documentation to be too prechy at times. We need product documentation in tutorial format. Some thing like FileNet and Documentum have where they teach you step by step on how to do things. They also have published there case study similar to revanna. I donot see any documents related to revanna other than explaning site studio capabilites.Only good thing about this is that it has a good book in the market by bex.
  3. Folders: If ever oracle wants to get into serious document management it should beef up this component or still go ahead and do a redesign. Currently according to me this is very primitive. When ever you create a folder UCM gives it a unique id call collection id, this is done automatic and you have no control over this. Now if you have a situation where you have created a profile where all content ends up in particular folder and move that profile to other environament you have reset the default folder for the profile using the Collection id in each environament. I say give me some thing which i can control some thing in line of Content type, so that i need not worry about different environament when i am programming.
  4. Site Studio Designer: This is a lousy IDE. This cannot even do a word wrap! While creating fragments this doesnot automaticaly do some basic manual things. Will eloborate more later.
  • Workflow Designer: UCM Workflow applet is very very primitive. It looks like it was created during the first version of Stellnet and nobody bothered to revisit the UI. Again if oracle wants to get into serious ECM it should beef up this gives us some good process design capability, should allow us to publish workflow as webservice, allow people to consume other workflows.. and blah balh blah….
  • 2009/10/07

    Comparing Alfresco and SharePoint 2007

    Filed under: Alfresco, General, Sharepoint — Tags: , , — Anthony Fast @ 7:48 pm
    Category Alfresco SharePoint 2007
    Cost Estimate $15000.00 $40000.00
    Available Languages
    Learning Curve
    License GNU General Public License (GPL) Commercial / One-time Cost
    One-Click Updates
    Standards Compliance Level
    Site Setup Wizard Limited No
    Total views 32 11
    Content Categorization Yes
    Content Construction Kit
    Content Staging and Merging Yes Yes
    Content Tagging Yes
    Content Templates Yes Yes
    Custom Content Types
    Import-Export Yes
    Printer, Email and PDF Versions
    Revisions and History Yes
    Scheduling Yes Yes
    Subscriptions No Yes
    Tag Cloud Yes
    Voting and Rating Limited
    Advertising Management No Yes
    Affiliate Tracking No Yes (Add-on)
    Calendar Yes Yes
    Chat No Yes
    Commenting System
    Contact Form No Yes
    Contacts Management No Yes (Add-on)
    Events Management No Yes
    FAQ Management Yes Yes (Add-on)
    File Repository and Distribution Yes Yes
    Forms and Surveys No Yes
    Full-Text Document Search
    Graphs and Charts No Yes
    Guestbook No Yes
    Helpdesk / Ticketing System No Yes
    HTTP Proxy No Yes
    Internal Search Engine Yes Yes
    Lightbox (or variants)
    Link Management Yes Yes
    Live Chat
    Media Gallery Yes Yes
    Newsletter Management No Yes
    Polls No Yes
    Sitemap Limited Yes
    Streaming Audio Management
    Streaming Video Management
    Tests, Quizzes and Raffles No Yes
    XML Sitemap for Search Engines
    Interface Localization (l10n) Yes Yes
    Internationalization (i18n) Yes Yes
    Language Negotiation
    Multi-Site from 1 Codebase Yes Yes
    Multi-Site from 1 Database
    Multiple Domains Management Yes
    Right to Left Language Support
    CGI Mode Support No No
    Content Syndication (RSS) Yes Yes
    Database Query Editor
    Database-to-Web External Databases
    FTP Support Yes Yes
    iCal No No
    Section 508
    Text Browser Support
    UTF-8 Support Yes Yes
    W3C XHTML Compliant Yes Yes
    WAI Compliant Yes Yes
    Web Services API Yes Yes
    WebDAV Support Yes Yes
    Content Type Theming
    Drag and Drop Layouts
    Granular CSS Classes
    Scheduled Theming
    Style Wizard No Yes
    Sub Theming
    Template Language Yes Yes
    Theming / Skinning Yes Yes
    URL Path Theming
    Web-based Template Management Yes Yes

    Device Capabilities Caching
    Device Capabilities Detection
    Device Groups
    Site Wizard for Mobile Site
    SMS Support
    Templates per Device Group
    Unique Mobile Content
    Clipboard Yes Yes
    Copy / Paste from Office Yes
    Email Content to Site Yes Yes
    External Editor Limited
    Image Auto Thumbnails Yes
    Image Editing Limited (Add-on)
    Image Resizing Yes Yes (Paid)
    Macro Language Yes Yes
    Server Page Language Yes Yes
    Spelling Checker Yes (Add-on) Yes
    Trash Bin Yes Yes
    Undo History Yes Yes
    WYSIWYG Editor Yes Yes

    Advanced Caching Yes Yes
    Automatic Meta Tags Yes
    Bandwidth Optimization Limited Yes
    Database Optimization No Yes
    Database Query Caching
    Database Replication Yes Yes
    Friendly URLs Yes Yes
    Load Balancing Yes Yes
    Minify Javascipt
    Search Engine Optimization Yes Yes
    Static Content Export Yes No
    Audit Trail Yes Yes
    Captcha Anti-Spam No No
    Content Approval Yes Yes
    Database Backup/Restore Yes
    Email Verification No Yes (Add-on)
    Error Reporting Yes Yes
    Kerberos Authentication Yes Yes
    LDAP Authentication Yes Yes
    Login History Yes Yes
    NIS Authentication No Yes
    NTLM Authentication Yes Yes
    Password Encryption
    Pluggable Authentication Yes Yes
    Sandbox Yes Yes
    Scheduled Backups
    Session Management Limited Yes
    SMB Authentication Yes Yes
    SSL Support Yes Yes
    Versioning Yes Yes
    Administration Dashboard Yes Yes
    Drag and Drop Interface Limited Yes
    File and Document Manager Yes Yes
    Google Analytics
    Inline Content Administration No Yes
    Internal Search for Admin
    Link Checker Limited
    Mass Upload Yes Yes
    Media Library Yes Yes
    Metadata Yes Yes
    Offline Maintenance Page
    Online Administration Yes Yes
    Personal Dashboard
    Site Navigation Management Yes
    Statistics No Yes
    Translation Strings Management Yes Yes
    Workflow Engine Yes Yes
    Zip Archive Support Yes Yes
    Certification Programme Yes Yes
    Code Skeletons Yes Yes
    Commercial Manuals Yes Yes
    Commercial Support Yes Yes
    Community Forums Yes Yes
    Developer Community Yes Yes
    Issue Tracking Yes
    Mailing Lists No Yes
    Online Help Yes Yes
    Support Network Subscription
    Trainings and Seminars Yes Yes
    User Conferences Yes
    Buddy List
    Memberlist Search
    OpenID Login Support Limited
    Paid Content Subscriptions No
    Private Messaging System No
    Public User Page
    Registration Form Yes
    Registration Form Custom Fields Limited
    User Access Control Yes Yes
    User Contributions Limited Yes
    User Groups Yes Yes
    User Points / Karma Rating
    User Preferences
    User Profile Custom Fields
    User Profiles Yes Yes
    User Signatures
    Who’s Online List



    SharePoint Scaling Limits

    Filed under: General, Performance, Scalability, Sharepoint — Tags: , — Anthony Fast @ 6:14 am


    I frequently get asked for SharePoint scaling limits so I though I would blog an entry I can refer people to.

    First an extract from the Capacity Planning section of the Windows SharePoint Services Administration guide which answers general WSS limits questions:

    None of these are hard limits enforced by the system. They are guidelines for designing a server that has good overall performance.

    • Site collections (Database scope) 50,000 … Total throughput degrades as the number of site collections increases.
    • Web sites (Web site scope) 2,000 … The interface for enumerating subsites of a given Web site does not perform well much
      beyond 2,000 subsites.
    • Web sites (Site collection) 250,000 – You can create a very large total number of Web sites by nesting the subsites. For example, 100
      sites each with 1000 subsites is 100,100 Web sites.
    • Documents (Folder scope) 2,000 … The interfaces for enumerating documents in a folder do not perform well beyond a thousand entries.
    • Documents (Library scope) 2 million … You can create very large document libraries by nesting folders.
    • Security principals (Web site scope) 2,000 … The size of the access control list is limited to a few thousand security principals, in other words users and groups in the Web site.
    • Users ( Web site scope) 2 million … You can add millions of people to your Web site by using Microsoft Windows security groups to manage security instead of using individual users.
    • Items (List scope) 2,000 … The interface for enumerating list items does not perform well beyond a few thousand items.
    • Web Parts (Page scope) 100 … Pages with more than 100 Web Parts are slow to render.
    • Web Part personalization (Page scope) 10,000 … Pages with more than a few thousand user personalizations are slow to render.
    • Lists (Web site scope) 2,000 … The interface for enumerating lists and libraries in a Web site does not perform well beyond a few thousand entries.
    • Document size (File scope) 50 MB … The file save performance degrades as the file size grows. The default maximum is 50 MB. This maximum is enforced by the system, but you can change it to any value up to 2 GB (2047 MB) if you have applied Windows SharePoint Services Service Pack 1.

    For SharePoint Portal Server, here’s an extract from the Capacity Planning whitepaper:

    It is important to understand the ramifications of the different features and functions of the SharePoint Portal Server solutions to size the system so that the performance of the system is good.

    The following table lists some of the SharePoint Portal Server objects and describes their recommended use. “Typical” indicates comfortable and well tested; “maximum” indicates that the system can support that number, but not without some performance ramifications or
    special configurations.

    An asterisk (*) indicates a hard limit; no asterisk indicates a tested or supported limit.

    • Portal sites (full) – typically 2 … maximum 15 *
    • Portal sites (child) – typically 10 … maximum 100 *
    • Areas – typically 1,000 … maximum 10,000
    • Best Bets – typically 1,000 … maximum 25,000
    • Area depth – typically 5 … maximum 20 *
    • User profiles – typically 50,000 … maximum 1,000,000
    • Audiences – typically 500 … maximum 10,000
    • Audience memberships – typically 500,000 … maximum 5,000,000
    • SSO credentials – typically 100,00 … maximum 100,000
    • Search indexes – typically 3 … maximum 32
    • Content sources -typically 25 … maximum 250
    • Search scopes – typically 25 … maximum 250 *
    • Indexed documents per content index – typically 100,000 … maximum 5,000,000
    • Indexed documents – typically 2,500,000 … maximum 20,000,000
    • Thesaurus entries – typically 1,000 … maximum 10,000
    • Alerts – typically 50,000 … maximum 1,000,000
    • Team sites – typically 10,000 … maximum 250,000
  • Personal sites – typically 10,000 … maximum 250,000
  • Understanding the differences between Alfresco’s repository implementations

    Filed under: Alfresco, General, Performance, Scalability, WCM — Tags: , — Anthony Fast @ 6:14 am


    People new to Alfresco are often unaware of the existence of two different repository implementations within the product. One, which I’ll call the “DM Store”, is the classic store, the one that’s been used by Alfresco since the beginning. The other, the “WCM Store” or, as it is often referred to in API-speak, the “AVM Store”, was born with the addition of the Alfresco WCM product offering. Whether you are doing document management or web content management, you use the same Explorer client, but under the covers, your content lives in two very different types of repositories.

    The Alfresco story on why a second repository implementation was created is that the Engineers writing WCM didn’t believe the DM store was capable of providing the kind of support for versioning, branching, and layering functionality they needed (hence, the AVM acronym, which stands for Advanced Versioning Manager) so they created an entirely new repository implementation to support WCM.

    Why does this matter, apart from being a possible topic of conversation at your next get-together (”Healthcare is easy to fix. Do you think Alfresco will ever unify their two repository implementations?”)? It matters because the “two sides” of Alfresco are not equivalent in terms of functionality and depending on what you need to do, you may find yourself performing unnatural acts to work around the disparity.

    Many projects will be completely unaffected by the differences between Alfresco DM and Alfresco WCM. But it is important to know what these differences are when you first begin to plan your solution to avoid uncomfortable conversations between you and your customer when you realize you’ve made a bad assumption.

    I’ll assume you know the high-level capabilities of both Alfresco DM and Alfresco WCM. Obviously there are some things one product can do that the other can’t that are by design (sandboxes and virtualization in WCM, for example). What’s more important to understand are the subtle (and sometimes not-so subtle) differences between the two. Here’s the list and a table that summarizes, if you are into the whole brevity thing:

    Content Modeling. Alfresco DM uses a proprietary XML-based description of the content model while Alfresco WCM uses XML Schema. On the surface this isn’t a big deal, but it does mean if your repository contains a mix of DM- and WCM-stored data, you won’t have a single model that defines it all and you could possibly have duplication between the two.

    Custom Content Types. In Alfresco DM, when you create content, you tell Alfresco what its content type is. If you’ve extended the out-of-the-box model, you can have any number of business-specific content types with your own custom metadata. In Alfresco WCM, custom content types are not supported. In WCM, your content type is your web form. Interestingly, although the “Type” dropdown is shown in the “Create Web Content” dialog, and it will contain custom content types you’ve defined using the Alfresco DM model, your selection will not be honored. All AVM content is created as an instance of the “avmplaincontent” content type no matter what you select. However, although you must do it through an API call, you can apply custom aspects to AVM content.

    User Interface Configuration. Alfresco DM uses a proprietary XML-based configuration file to define the “property sheets” that display metadata in the Alfresco Explorer client for a given content type or aspect. Alfresco WCM uses the embedded Chiba XForms engine to inspect the XML Schema (XSD) and automatically create a web form that will produce data that conforms to the XSD. XSD annotations can be used to influence the presentation of the form fields. One outcome of this is that it is much easier to localize things like property labels in Alfresco DM than it is in Alfresco WCM.

    User Interface Extension. If you need to change how the Alfresco Explorer client behaves, there are some things you can do through XML, but advanced customizations will require JavaServer Faces (JSF) development. Alfresco DM and WCM both use the same Explorer client so this applies to both (See “Alfresco User Interface: What are my options?”). However, if you need to change how the web form engine works, you may need to write new Chiba XForms widgets. For instance, Optaros developed a web form used to describe points and regions on Google Maps. That kind of thing requires you to understand how to extend Chiba.

    Structured (XML) data entry. Data entered in an Alfresco WCM web form is saved as XML that conforms to the XSD you’ve defined. There is no similar facility for capturing data as XML available within Alfresco DM. At one point the Community code line had “ECM Forms” which was essentially WCM web forms for the DM side of the house, but that’s disappeared in the latest Community release. On the DM side, when you edit metadata you are editing object properties whose values get stored in the database, not as XML.

    Transformations. You can use either Freemarker or XSLT to transform Alfresco web form XML into other formats. That transformation is defined as part of the web form configuration which you do within the Explorer client. In Alfresco DM, transformations are more about binary file transformations (DOC to PDF or GIF to PNG, for example). If you want to do Freemarker or XSLT transformations on XML content stored in Alfresco DM, you’ll need to write that yourself (an Action would do the trick). If you want to do DM-style transformations on binary files in Alfresco WCM, that’s not out-of-the-box. You’ll have to do that using the API.

    Rule actions. Alfresco DM allows you to configure rules on folders to trigger actions (out-of-the-box or custom) to operate against newly-added, updated, or deleted documents. Alfresco WCM does not support rule actions at all.

    Auditing. Alfresco DM has a granular auditing sub-system. You can configure it to audit just about anything you want. Anything except WCM. You can audit web project creation, but not changes to individual web assets within a web project. At least not out-of-the-box.

    Object-level permissions. In Alfresco DM you can assign users and groups to roles at the folder and file level. In Alfresco WCM, the UI will only let you go as low as the web project level. The API supports more granular security but you have to implement that yourself with custom code.

    Search. Everything in Alfresco DM is full-text indexed and searchable. In Alfresco WCM, only the Staging Sandbox of each web project is indexed. You can do a search from your user sandbox but you’re really searching the Staging Sandbox. If you have any content you’ve created in your user sandbox that you have not yet committed to Staging, web project search won’t find it. Another limitation is that you cannot search across web projects. That search box that’s visible in the far upper right-hand corner of the Alfresco Explorer client is the Alfresco DM search–it won’t find anything in any of your web projects.

    Advanced Workflow. Alfresco DM and Alfresco WCM use the same JBoss jBPM workflow engine so there’s no functional difference between what you can do with workflow on either side. The only catch is that in Alfresco DM, all deployed workflows show up in the “Start Advanced Workflow” dialog whereas in WCM, you have to tell Alfresco which deployed workflows are okay to use for WCM. That’s covered in the Alfresco Developer Guide and on the wiki.

    File protocols. CIFS and FTP are the only two file protocols supported by both Alfresco DM and Alfresco WCM. Similar protocols supported by Alfresco DM such as WebDAV, inbound SMTP, and IMAP, are not supported by Alfresco WCM.

    Deployment. Some people use Alfresco DM to manage content that is published to the web because they don’t need the additional features WCM offers, or they have some other reason to export content to another server. Unfortunately, Alfresco DM does not yet offer a deployment component like the one in Alfresco WCM. If you want to export content from Alfresco DM to some other destination in a systematic way, you’ll have to roll your own solution.

    As John and Paul said, “It’s getting better”

    Some of these differences will become less drastic in coming releases. For example, Alfresco is implementing a new form service that will be used to define the content model and user interface across the entire product line, so that helps. The WCM deployment functionality is also being refactored and will ultimately work for both DM and WCM. And at every community event Alfresco talks about “repository unification” as a goal for the future, although the timeline is lightyears away in terms of software releases.

    As I said, depending on what you’re doing these differences may not affect you at all. Just make sure you don’t assume that a given feature is available everywhere, and make sure you’ve made a conscious decision about what content to put in which repository (DM or WCM) based on your requirements.


    ecmtechnicalsupport to Public Access to Records in Oracle UCM

    Filed under: General, Hijacking, Oracle UCM, Security — Tags: , , — Anthony Fast @ 10:32 pm


    Public Access to Records in Oracle UCM Can Make Web Sites Vulnerable

    I was recently surprised to find a lot of companies running Oracle UCM systems that were exposed in a way that someone could hijack the website. We were looking for documents related to generic properties forms on the internet and quickly found 4 large government and corporate companies with systems left wide open with material relating to their websites. We logged on as a guest user and we could have deleted the web content or checked out the content and checked in new content giving us control of what is on their websites. I was able to get the emails of the contributors from the system and emailed them to let them know that they need to lock down their site. It was interesting that I never got a response from any of the people and that the web sites are still exposed. When mixing critical business content and public access you can’t take security and rights issues lightly. In this case, a simple checkbox can make the difference between fast access to important ECM records and becoming a victim of HTML theft.


    WebMonkeyMagic on hyperlinks in UCM

    Filed under: General, Oracle UCM, Usability, WCM — Tags: , , — Anthony Fast @ 10:13 pm


    The achilles heel of Oracle UCM – hyperlinks

    UCM is a great document management system but its websites are sure awkward. The most obvious blunder was the editor so thank god that’s been fixed! This leaves us with the biggest weakness in the system – hyperlinks.

    Let’s look at exhibit A – the Hyperlink Wizard. The new UCM spots a brand new fully AJAX interface for creating links. There’s an amazing amount of code and effort put into it – just to make it work exactly like the old one! Fair dinkim guys, it took a pHD* to understand the old one so why replicate its horrible functionality? Did you expect your users to be so fully engrossed in the old way that they would be incapable of doing it any more simply? Why did you waste your time reinventing the wheel when it is just as square as the old one? I wonder if they have ever tried to create a link…

    The first thing it does is ask “do you want to link to a section, file or URL?” What? Why do I have to choose? What’s the difference? I want to link to another web page… who knows? Click on file. “Do you want the current item, existing file from server, upload a file, new file, or new word doc?” Hmmm, I’m editing this link so I don’t want the current item (duh). Why would I create a word doc? I’m trying to make a link to a web page! I guess I’ll have to choose existing, good thing I already know the content id. Once the initial search results finally load, i have to search again using my content id. Ok, I have selected my content item. Now it asks “use default web section metadata, choose a section or just link to URL?” Do i care? What does a section mean anyway? I think i want a URL but I know my page is already used in website x, so I’ll drill down into that website until i find a “section” that sounds like my page. Click click click click click. Click next and it displays some ugly code and calls it my “link URL” (i thought i chose a section!) asking to me confirm. Hmm that looks nothing like the link i expected to see. Click finish and hope for the best.

    Wow, what a pointlessly verbose experience (and i even removed a step!) Steve Krug says, “DON’T MAKE ME THINK!” so my contributors skip all that by simply pasting the published URL into the first “URL” field. The system however does not recognise published URLs, decides there are no links to that page, and deletes it from the published site. D’oh!

    And take a look at the URLs it publishes. Every one ends in some seemingly random number! Why? Because the system must give every page a unique id. C’mon guys, most free CMS software generates human-sounding URLs even before Web2.0 happened. Is it really that hard?

    And so ends another rant. Hopefully my next post will be about a replacement Hyperlink Wizard that I have written for you to download and enjoy.

    * I work at a uni, my contributors are academics and they screw up the links all the time.

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